Monday, March 29, 2010

The Bean Salad

I'm a self-admitted bean salad snob. I like the sweet to be at the forefront of the sweet and sour taste of the I rarely get any at a buffet.

Here is my recipe for bean salad....I like it, and I hope you enjoy it. No surprises here, except how well it keeps!

Marinated Bean Salad

1/4 cup salad oil
2/3 cup vinegar (apple cider or white)
3/4 cup sugar (it really works, trust me)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 14-16 oz can cut green beans
1 14-16 oz can wax beans or garbanzo beans, well rinsed and drained
1 14-16 oz can red kidney beans, well rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/4 cup diced celery

Combine oil, vinegar, sugar and seasonings in container with a tight fitting lid. Shake well to combine.

Add remaining ingredients to a large bowl. Pour marinade over the salad mixture and stir gently.

Refrigerate overnight, drain and serve. Delicious and keeps well.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Barbecue Sauce...

....I always forget to buy barbecue sauce when I'm at the store. So, I've become adept and combining things to make my own. Again, no strict recipes here.....just add and taste and go from there.

Classic Barbecue Sauce

Start with kethup in a microwave safe bowl. Add prepared mustard and mix....add it until the sauce is as "orange" as you like it. Next, add brown sugar until it's as sweet as you like. Then add some worcestershire for zip, and a little red pepper sauce if you like FIRE. Heat in the microwave to simmering to dissolve the sugar, and you're good to go.


Asian Flair Sauce

Start with the ketchup, add honey to taste, soy sauce, and ground ginger for a more far eastern flavor. Add a few dashes of Chinese chili sauce if you like heat, and a little sesame oil if you please.

Zippy sauce

Use chili sauce in place of ketchup

Steak Sauce Sauce

Equal parts steak sauce, and honey. Surprisingly good especially with the "57" type sauces.

The Vegetable Kebab

....this is probably the easiest kebab you will ever make.....and they're quite good. Much better than you think they would be.

This isn't a recipe so much as some guidelines. Go with what you like, have some fun and keep an eye out for colorful combinations, and you really can't go wrong.


Vegetables, cut into manageable cubes or whole mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and the like. Whatever you happen to enjoy. I enjoy baby onions, green, yellow, and red peppers, crookneck squash and zucchini, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes.

Thread these veggies onto some wooden skewers in some attractive combination, and place in a large container with a tight-fitting lid.

Pour a small bottle of Italian salad dressing of your choice over all, turn a couple of times to coat everything and refrigerate until ready to cook. Turn the container over every now and again to redistribute the marinade.

Cook over hot coals or under the broiler until vegetables are crisp-tender with some browned edges and serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What's a picnic without potato salad?

A picnic, that's what it is. However, if you're going to go the fried chicken route, potato salad is a natural for that old fashioned picnic basket. Of course, you need an old fashioned potato salad to go with it, something that keeps well, and has a unique zip that more modern recipes lack.

In the name of time, modern recipes no longer marinate the potatoes and other ingredients the night before. Try this method, it makes a really special salad, something that could be found at a 1930's Ladies Auxiliary picnic, pridefully served by the finest cook.

Old Fashioned Potato Salad

Main Salad Ingredients--

6 medium potatoes
6 hard cooked eggs
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup minced sweet onion
1/4 cup chopped sweet or dill pickle, or pickle relish

Cook potatoes in jackets in boiling water until tender (approx 30 minutes). Peel while still warm and combine with other main salad ingredients.

The Magic Marinade

4 tablespoons cooking oil, not olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Combine in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. Pour over main salad ingredients, toss lightly to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight to let the potatoes and ingredients absorb the sweet tart flavor.

Right before serving, toss salad with 1/2 cup mayonnaise. I prefer real mayo, but whipped type salad dressings or light mayo also work if you prefer. Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

Spring has Sprung!

Spring is here! YES!

Since some warm days are on their way, I thought I'd add some picnic basket stuff to the mix.....there's nothing much more fun than packing a basket of goodies, heading to your favorite park, and just spending time with your friends and family.

The picnic basket can be as simple or as elaborate as you personally like. To start off the festivities, I thought I'd post my recipe for oven friend chicken. It's good, easy to make, and cheap as far as good picnic fare goes. Pack some potato salad, some carrot and celery sticks, and some fresh fruit or a pie and you're good to go!

Oven Friend Chicken

1 fryer, cut into pieces
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup oil

Start by preheating the oven to 400F. Put the oil onto a largish baking sheet WITH CLOSED SIDES. Put cookie sheet in the oven for about 5 minutes to heat the oil.

Rinse chicken thoroughly and let drain. Combine flour and other seasonings in a plastic bag. Shake chicken, a piece at a time, to coat thoroughly with flour.

Lay chicken pieces on the baking sheet and return to oven. Cook for about 35 minutes. Turn pieces, and cook for another 25 minutes, or until thoroughly cooked.

Serve hot or cold. It's simple and delicious either way.


Cinnamon chicken

Use 2 teaspoons plain salt instead of the seasoned salt, and add 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon with the other seasonings. Excellent cold chicken!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Free (Legal) Software

I love the open source software world. These gracious folks put together wonderful packages of software for free (donations usually accepted) that can often match or exceed packages that cost a small fortune.

I thought I'd put together a list of programs that I use regularly on my Windows computer. All are first rate, free to use, and just work. I could put links in here but if you copy and Google any of the titles, you can get there too. I'm lazy this Friday!
The premiere free office suite. About 99.5% compatible with MS Office, it does everything that a home, or small business user could want. Some of the buttons are in slightly different places, but the OpenOffice team has wonderful downloadable user guides.

Foobar2000 (Music Player)
This is a great music player, music library manager that does a lot with just a few system resources. It's highly customizable, free to use, and even has plug ins you can download to manage your iPod. I like it because it works well, fast, and has never crashed on me before. It will also rip and tag your CD's into your library.

Exact Audio Copy
This is my favorite CD ripper. It takes a bit of time to set up correctly, but it creates VERY accurate rips of your audio CD's. The error correction is incredible. I've put some very scratched older CD's in and ripped them.....sometimes it took several hours, but EAC managed to produce uncorrupted mp3 files for me.

DVD Flick
This is a simple free DVD creator. All you do is add the videos you want to burn to a DVD, tweak the project and menu settings to your liking and you have a DVD project going. It takes me about 5 minutes to set up a project (MUCH longer to decode and burn the DVD on my machine), and it doesn't take over my computer. It's not a fancy authoring program by any means, but it's simple, stable, and fun to use. And the results are good! :)

More to follow in later posts, but when you need something, consider donating to and supporting the open source folks first. They create some wonderful solutions for all of us. :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

BBQ Ribs

I love good barbecue. I also hate paying for a decent rib at a restaurant when pork ribs are cheap to buy, and easy to fix. Here is all you need.

Boneless pork country style ribs
Salt and Pepper
Barbecue sauce of your own choosing, homemade or from a bottle (homemade is best)
An hour and a half of your time

Start by preheating the oven to 450F. Season the ribs with salt and pepper, and place in a baking pan coated with no-stick spray.

Cook the ribs at 450F for 30 minutes. Remove, and brush with sauce. Reduce oven temp to 350F, and put the ribs back in.

Cook for another hour, removing the ribs every 15 minutes to baste with the sauce.

Serve with fried rice or corn on the cob and coleslaw.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Easiest Biscuits This Side of Canned....

I had old fashioned chicken and biscuits for dinner tonight. I had some leftover roast chicken, and plenty of drippings to make a good gravy, so I thought why not?

I thought I'd share my biscuit recipe with you. No, it's not the best quick bread out there, but it's just about the easiest you will find, and requires no cans, mixes, or rolling. And it's good; far better than anything you can get from a can or a mix.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cooking oil (YES, cooking oil)
2/3 cup milk

Stir the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Pour the oil into a liquid measuring cup. Add milk until the liquid comes to the 1 cup mark.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, and add the liquids all at once. Stir until a dough starts to come together. Put a little flour on your hands, reach into the bowl and knead or squish the dough together for about 30 seconds.

Now here's the easy part. Grab a handful of dough, roll it into a ball with your hands, and shape it into a circle about 1/2 - 3/4 " thick. Cut into fourths, and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining dough until gone. Bake at 425F for 12 - 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve hot!

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Quick Macaroni Dish

This recipe tastes much better than you would think, and it's incredibly cheap to make, even if you go a little pricey on the bacon and the olives. An old time comfort food side dish that's a great weeknight supper with a salad and some fruit.

Macaroni Dish

6 slices bacon, snipped with kitchen shears
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup sliced olives (I use the green salad variety)
1 lb elbow macaroni, rotini, or shells

Cook macaroni in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain well.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon bits in a skillet until browned. Remove, reserving the bacon drippings.

Saute the onion in the bacon drippings until tender and golden. Add the bacon and the sliced olives and stir until heated.

Toss with the cooked, drained macaroni, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve.

Also holds and reheats well.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hey Music Lovers

Sometimes a song gets stuck in my head, or I want just a few songs from a particular group. If it's just one, I'll pay the 89 or 99 cents from Amazon MP3 downloads.

However, sometimes, there are just a few key songs that I want by a particular group...more than one but not enough to justify $10 - $20 for a greatest hits collection.

Enter the Rhino Hi Five! These are mini greatest hits compilations available from Rhino records ( or places like Amazon mp3. The cost for a collection is usually $4-5 and you get the key songs that made the artist famous. Rhino offers high quality mp3's and also offers them in lossless formats so you can create a higher quality CD. However, you do pay more for those, and I find the mp3 to be more than satisfactory.

Check them out the next time you want just a few "old memories."

Sorry about Not Being Online...

It's been a little crazy the last week. My dad passed away last Friday and then my cousin's wife was taken seriously ill (she's 6 months pregnant), so I've had my mind elsewhere. She's doing better and the baby is we're keeping her in our prayers but things are looking up.

I've been craving comfort food since all the confusion has started, so I thought I'd share one of my old time favorites with you. Nothing imaginative here nothing at all, but it's simple and tasty, and I think it's a far cry better than the recipe on the mushroom soup can.

Quick and Easy Chicken and Rice

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thawed
Seasoned salt
Black pepper
Olive oil
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup (buy the store brand for sauces and casseroles; it's just fine)
1 cup rice
2 cups water with 2 chicken boullion cubes added
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning (salt free variety)

Heat olive oil in heavy skillet. Add chicken breasts and brown over medium heat until golden. Season breasts with the seasoned salt and pepper, and add the can of condensed soup. Stir it around a bit to get it distributed. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Meanwhile, mix water and boullion (or chicken broth) in a large saucepan. Heat to boiling. Add rice and poultry seasoning. Return to boil, reduce heat to LOW and simmer until all the water is absorbed (about 15 - 20 minutes.....about 40 - 45 for brown rice).

To serve, place a bed of rice on the plate, add a bit of the mushroom sauce, and place a chicken breast on top. Very easy and comforting food.